zaterdag 7 oktober 2017



Sounds Like: The harmony-heavy, guitar-fueled house band at a Big Pink keg party in 1968
For Fans of: Grateful Dead's American Beauty, Little Feat's Dixie Chicken, Dawes' North Hills
Why You Should Pay Attention: Already cult favorites in Nashville, Cordovas have built honorary home bases across the globe, thanks to recurring shows in Todos Santos, Mexico – where ringleader Joe Firstman runs the yearly Tropic of Cancer Concert Series – and a touring schedule that recently including headlining gigs in Sweden and a stateside run alongside the Turnpike Troubadours. The band's sound, though, is decidedly American. Caught halfway between Duane Allman's Telecaster twang, the Dead's hazy harmonies and the stoned swoon of California's folk-rock heyday, Cordovas wring new life from older influences, hoisting their freak flag high on their upcoming album, That Santa Fe Channel.
They Say: "We did everything live," Firstman says of That Santa Fe Channel, which was produced by the Milk Carton Kids' Kenneth Pattengale. "Even the harmonies were recorded together, with all three of us singing. We probably did 15 takes of the first song, 'This Town's a Drag.' Kenneth wanted it to sound as real and authentic as possible, and when I listen back, it gets better and better every time."
Hear for Yourself: "I'm the One Who Needs You Tonight" is rich with harmonies and Grateful Dead inspiration. R.C. 

vrijdag 6 oktober 2017

Moby Grape Bio

Moby Grape

Of the many groups to emerge from San Francisco in the late 1960s, Moby Grape stood out as the band that most preferred structured songs to free-form jamming and the one that mixed L.A. folk rock with San Francisco's standard psychedelia. But it was never able to capitalize on its potential, partly because of hype from Columbia Records that threatened to bury its debut album. Moby Grape grew out of Northern California's Frantics, which included Jerry Miller, Bob Mosley, and Don Stevenson. Mosley met Peter Lewis (son of actress Loretta Young), who had recently abandoned Peter and the Wolves for solo work; Skip Spence was a guitarist who had played drums with the Jefferson Airplane and cowritten several songs ("My Best Friend," "Blues From an Airplane") that appeared on the Airplane's early albums.
Released in June 1967, Moby Grape became infamous at once when Columbia chose to release eight of its 13 cuts simultaneously on 45s, confusing radio DJs. Only the frenetic "Omaha" charted. The record also came with a poster of the band and a front-cover photograph that featured Stevenson with his middle finger extended (later airbrushed out). Amid the furor, the actual music was virtually ignored.
Moby Grape's second album, Wow, was similarly derailed by gimmickry; it contained a track that could be played only at 78 rpm and a "bonus" LP, Grape Jam, that included Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield. Moby Grape then disbanded but re-formed as a quartet soon after, without Spence, and commemorated the event with Moby Grape '69. This set a pattern of breakup, re-formation, album, breakup that continues until this day. Before 1995, the members were legally forbidden from using the name Moby Grape; over the years they came up with such imaginative permutations as Maby Grope, Mosley Grape, the Melvilles (as in Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick), and the Legendary Grape. Miller, Lewis, Mosley, and Stevenson carried the project into the early '90s. Mosley, who was homeless in the middle of the decade, was occasionally gone. A 1998 tour featured Miller, Lewis, and Mosley but not Stevenson.
Absent from these reunions was Spence, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who showed signs of mental illness during the Moby Grape's original run. On tour, he once broke into Stevenson's room, claiming that voices had told him the drummer was possessed by the devil; by 1968, he'd been committed to New York's Bellevue Hospital. In 1991, while a resident of a residential-care house in San Jose, California, he contributed a song, "All My Life I Love You," to a cassette by Miller, Stevenson, Mosley, Lewis, and two new musicians. This '90s version of Moby Grape opened shows for another reunited California band, the Doobie Brothers (whom Spence allegedly named). In 1993 Spence joined the other original members onstage for a Bay Area gig. That year's release of a CD retrospective, Vintage, brought this now-revered Moby Grape more attention than it ever received during its lifetime.
Spence's stark, darkly eccentric 1969 solo release, Oar, became a sought-after item in the late '90s. Shortly after the performer's death in 1999, Birdman Records issued More Oar: A Tribute to Alexander "Skip" Spence, a song-for-song cover of the album featuring acts ranging from Beck to Tom Waits to Mudhoney. The original LP was reissued with 10 bonus tracks that year as well.
This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).

50 Years Ago: Moby Grape Rock San Francisco Scene With Debut LP Read More: 50 Years Ago: Moby Grape Rock San Francisco Scene With Debut LP


ou know Peter Lewis. He's the dapper guy in
the upper left-hand corner of that first Moby
Grape sleeve, set apart from the rest of th
e band by those Warren Beatty/Jan Berry/Mark
Lindsay good looks Hollywood is always scramb
ling after. And he's the man who penned the
stunning "Fall On You" from the Grape's classic
first album. Lewis stuck it out through all the
peaks and the valleys, the backbiting and the pers
onnel changes of a band that, over the years,
has become synonymous with the label
unrealised potential.
As Marlon Brando says, in
On The
, they "coulda been a contender."
Hell, they could have been champ.
Lewis resides now in the tiny Danish town of
Solvang, halfway down the California coast
between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Comfortabl
y settled into an upmarket tract home on the
outskirts of this little gingerbread encrusted vi
llage — whose main appeal seems to lie in its
windmills and tourist-clogged gift shops — Lewis s
eems at peace with his legend, and with that of
his former band. He'll theorise for hours with the ze
al of a graduate student on just about any topic,
but his eyes shine brightest when he gets going on
the Grape, past, present and (possibly) future.
And how it all fits into the big picture.
Raised in Beverly Hills by his mother
, legendary film goddess and Academy Award
winner, Loretta Young (Best Actress for 1947's
The Farmer's Daughter
with Joseph Cotten) and
his dad, screenwriter Tom Lewis, Peter admits at on
e time he "had it all." His birthright, however,
never stopped him from seeking his own path. "My ex
perience in life has been starting out on top
and then walking downhill," he muses. His older sister, Judy, recently published her
Uncommon Knowledge,
publicly revealing what Hollywood insiders have known
for years, that she was fathered by Clark Gable
while he and Young worked on a film together.
It's probably not surprising that Peter wound
up in what one would loosely refer to as the
entertainment business. What's noteworthy is th
at he would gravitate to San Francisco — home
of "the new generation with a new explanation"
and always fiercely anti-Hollywood — to prove
himself in a musical crucible where his backgr
ound meant nothing. Rambling and contorted
enough to occupy a volume of this magazine
by itself, the Peter Lewis saga comes in two
instalments. As they still say in Tinsel
Town, "Always leave 'em begging for more."
PT: What was your childhood like, Peter, grow
ing up as the son of a famous film star?
PL: It was good until I was about eleven. It was like paradise. We lived in a place called Doheny
Ranch, 365 acres in the middle of Beverly
Hills before it was all developed.
Did you go down to the studio to
watch your mom making movies?
Yeah, sure. But it took me a long time to figure
out she was a movie star. When I was in military
school, in the fourth grade (age nine) somebody
asked me, "Is your mother Loretta Young?" and I
said, "Yeah." Then they started treatin' you differen
t, but before that kids don't care. We went to
school with Michael Reagan (son of Ronald) and Mia Farrow's brother. It's funny, y'know. It's not
like you did anything to deserve that. The way a kid
interprets it, it's almost like there's something
wrong with you. A lot of people say, "You had everything," and in a sense we did. But when I was
eleven my parents got divorced, and my dad took my brother Chris and me to live in New York.
We had been going to a military school that was
too difficult for me. I was the kid who wanted to
compete and be involved, but at that point we'd
already been to nine different schools. And now
there's this tremendous upheaval in the family.
How did you cope with New York?
There were seven kids in my class in the school
I was going to, and they'd been taking Latin and
French since the first grade. And I had a panic resp
onse to it. Because I'd
always been the new kid,
I could hang in there. Academically I was pretty good. But here I had one hand tied behind my
back. I didn't understand these foreign languages,
so I started freaking out, and it built up inside
me. The next day I went completely nuts and ran
out of the classroom into the streets of New York
City. I had a nervous breakdown, this really profound thing. I spent that night in Grand Central
Station. The next morning I found my way back to
my dad's apartment. They found me on the roof,
trying to get up enough guts to jump off.
What did they do with you?
My dad didn't know what to do. He'd taken a job
as a vice president of an advertising agency, so
he was always busy. He turned me over to this
behavioral psychologist who wanted to put me in a
mental ward. He told me, "This is where you stay un
til you go to school." They didn't care if you
were well. They just wanted you to behave. That's what it was like back then. If you let the ghouls
through the gate, you had to be whipped back into shape. They tricked me into going to the
psychiatric hospital by telling me I was getting a
physical exam. And when I got there they shot
me full of Thorazine and locked me up until I prom
ised to go to school. I was completely screwed
up. Every day you had to go to this place fo
r work therapy, making little plastic ropes.
God, that sounds like something out
of Dickens. How did you survive?
There was a guitar in there, and I grabbed that. An
d they had a TV in there too, and that's where I
saw Ricky Nelson for the first time on the
Ozzie and Harriet Show
every week. I hooked onto
Ricky Nelson. I hated this place, but I learned that
if I just held onto the guitar people would stay
away from me because I'd look occupied. In a
weird way that whole experience was responsible
for me starting to play the guitar. Ricky Nelson gav
e me this thing: "I want
to be like that guy."
And I latched onto it.
How long did you spend in that place?
I managed to talk my way out of it after a wh
ile. Two years later my mom came through New
York — I was thirteen now — and asked my brother and me if we wanted to go to Hawaii with
her for a vacation. My parents were fighting over
us. I went with her, and my brother didn't.
When we got to Hawaii, Ricky Nelson was there
to do a show. My mom knew that the Nelsons
were staying in the same hotel as us. So that ni
ght I got to sit between Ozzie and Harriet to watch
Ricky play. Two years earlier I'd been watching
the guy in a mental ward, and now I'd met him.
Did you see him much during his Stone Canyon Band days in the 1970's? I thought they were
great live.
I went to see him again, after Moby Grape, at
the Palamino (a mostly C&W club in LA's San
Fernando Valley). His roadie saw me wandering ar
ound and said, "Peter, does Ricky know you're
here?" And I said, "No, I didn't even know if he
'd remember me." So I went backstage, and it was
cool because he knew about Moby Grape and really
liked the band. He knew I was a really big
fan, and then he liked what I did — a real cool thin
g. I heard stuff later, because I used to go out
with Kris Harmon, his wife, before she married him.
After he died she told me they had problems
with drugs, but everybody did back then.
Even though he wasn't much older than the guys
in Moby Grape, Ricky seemed to come from a
different era.
Yeah, he was a product of the 50's. The 60's was
more like when the musicians themselves, not the
stars, took over, and they were street people with
a different mentality. They were tougher, in a
sense. The thought that Ricky re
ally liked the 60's stuff and really wanted to write again, and
that he thought that drugs were
a necessary part of it was sad.
That's what got him. He had
So, what happened to you after your mom brought you back from Hawaii?
I stayed with her in Los Angeles. The New York
thing was always too highbrow for me. For some
reason my brother was always better at that sort
of thing. I had my own thing in California, and
there had always been a lot of sibling rivalry with
Chris who's eleven months older than me. My
first year at Loyola high school I met up with th
e son of one of the guys from the original, radio
version of
Amos 'n' Andy,
Charlie Correll — same name as his dad. He lived in Beverly Hills. I
was a sort of semi-juvenile delinquent type guy. I
ran away. They caught me in Las Vegas once at
age thirteen. I was disturbed. Before New York I'd been into sports, a real straight shooter. But
that thing about my mom doing the TV show ever
y week with my dad — it was just too much
incoming energy, and it just blew the thing apart. Although I talked my way out of it, I never
really recovered from that New York place. The kids ridiculed you back in school, just like before,
but now you're more afraid to do anything that
'll get you put back in the mental ward.
Had you seen the film
Rebel Without A Cause
at the time? It sounds similar to the plight of
James Dean.
Yeah, I guess I just needed attention, so I did things like run away. The cops would throw me in
juvenile hall, and my mom would leave me there fo
r a couple of weeks. So, when I met Charlie
Correll, my first year at Loyola, he took me over on a Saturday night to where he was playing with
(television game host) Art Linkletter's son, Bob.
And it was Bob who got me into the electric
guitar. Bob died later in a car accident.
This, I take it, was the birth of the Cornells, your surf band?
Yeah, but we didn't call it that at first. We st
arted off as the Tornados, but then we heard about
those guys who'd done "Telstar." We were
doing Duane Eddy and Johnny & the Hurricanes
material. I was just learning how to play the guit
ar, and Link (Bob) showed me some stuff. He had
built his own electric guitar. He was very inventive.
It had a shitty action, but he let me play it.
Then we got some of their friends — guys who
also went to Black Fox Military Academy — Jim
O'Keefe on tenor sax and Tom Crumplar on bass, and we had a band. Somehow we learned
enough stuff so we could go play, like at school
s. We must have played every weekend for four
years. Back then you could do that if you wanted
. Our first gig was at the Westlake School For
Girls, which I though was pretty cool, because that
's where Candy Bergen went. I'd met her that
summer in Hawaii and been dating her off and on. She was only thirteen, but even then she was so
You actually cut an album in 1963 for Garex Records. How did that come about?
We had a manager, Steve Jahns, and he took care of that deal. He was also the one who came up
with the name, the Cornells. We'd always make fun of ourselves, and we wanted a
We made up those song titles on the album as we
went (laughs) —"Stompin' After Five." Nobody
paid any attention to that. When it was time to do
the next song, we'd just think it up right there
and do it. It was all done in three days. Nobody
sang. There were lots of bands in those days
where nobody sang. When the British Invasion stuff
hit the next year, it was like going from silent
movies to talkies. My mom did that, and so did
I. She started (in films) when she was five —
Clown, Laugh
with Lon Chaney.
Where did your mom come from, since practically nobody back then was a native Californian?
They came from Salt Lake City. They had some
problem with their grandfather, Earl Young.
Somehow he was an unfaithful guy, and he left.
So my grandmother and her three daughters and
one son, Jack Lindley, who's David Lindley's father, by the way — so David's my cousin — they
all moved to LA and used the grandfather as this
whipping boy, the reason to carry on, that they
weren't going to be destroyed by
this thing. My grandmother's
brother was an accountant in a
movie studio, and my mom and my aunts, because th
ey didn't have any money, would go over to
the film lot and just stand around as extras. There was a more important part available, so they
called my older aunt. But my mom, who's real
aggressive, answered the phone and said, "Let me
do it." (Silent film leading lady) Mae Murray wa
s in the scene, and my mom ingratiated herself
with her. So my grandmother even let my mom go stay with Mae Murray — in those days rich
people would do that, kind of like in the musical "Annie." My mom soaked it all up like a sponge.
She saw what it was like to behave like a movie star
and sort of put it on like a coat and wore it for
the rest of her life.
And she always had the looks for the part.
Well, she made herself look like that. She had bu
ck teeth, but she had this rational metaphysical
thing. Nothing from the outside was gonna get my
mom. She has this idea how things work and
believes in it with a faith beyond reason. I see my
mom all the time. Of course, now that my sister's
book has come out, she's really pissed off about it.
But secretly she's really enjoying it. She calls up
and says, "It makes me sick." But sh
e's really savouring the whole thing.
So, where did the Cornells play after the Cotillion balls and sock hops?
We played a lot at Gazzari's, which was definitely th
e least cool of the Sunset Strip clubs. And we
I've Got A Secret
(panel quiz network television show) with Garry Moore back in New York.
"What's your secret?" "We're all movie stars' sons." Then we did
The Les Crane Show.
By this time
(1964) we were actually singing. I sang lead
on "Sweets For My Sweet" and "Every Time You Walk
In The Room." We had just got into the English
thing. I was about to go to Purdue (University)
because they had a professional pilots' program th
ere. So Les Crane asked me after we did our
songs, "Are you gonna do this for a living?" And I said, "No, I'm gonna go to school and be a pilot."
Bob (Linkletter) got really pissed off at me for sa
yin' that. We were supposed to play Bob's dad's
show the next week,
The Art Linkletter Show,
but after Bob got mad at me I don't know if they
played it or not. He was really pissed off. I know
that this book came out listing personnel for surf
bands, and I'm not listed as one of those guys.
What was the music scene like in LA just before th
e Beatles hit? Did you ever go see (surf guitar
pioneer) Dick Dale play?
We saw Dick Dale at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa. And Dick was okay, but I always
preferred Freddie King. To me, surf music was okay,
but Freddie was funky. I used to hang around
with Henry Vestine, who was in a blues band calle
d Hial King and the Newports. I played lead
with the Cornells, but I also hung around with th
ese other musicians. There were two other surf
bands in LA at that time that, along with the
Cornells, were the top three: the Renegades and
Mike Adams and the Red Jackets. But, really, surf
music didn't impress me musically very much. I
got some side gigs playing sessions for Jan and De
an at Gold Star Studios. They had some guys
from the Guillotines there too. Ja
n could never really sing all that
well, but they didn't really give
a shit. They were just these good looking guys more into, like, being the coolest guys on the beach.
Their attitude was, "Can you believe we get paid for doing this?"
Did the Cornells re-tool the concept enough to su
it the British Invasion crowds, or did you just
fold up your tent?
Our peak shows were opening at the Hollywood
Bowl for (comedian) Soupy Sales and playing
the LA Sports Arena with Bobby Freeman, the Coasters and Wayne Newton. But the band never
really did call it quits. When I'd come home from Purdue, I just didn't think of calling those same
guys. I guess, by then, I was looking for someth
ing more long-hair. I liked the Beatles and the
Stones okay, but I didn't think there was anything th
ere worth dedicating your life to. But the first
time I saw the Byrds, at the Long Beach Arena, I
couldn't stop focusing on the harmonies, the
Dylan songs and
that sound.
Surf music was okay, but when I sa
w the Byrds, it was just like when
Mr. Toad found the motor car.
PT: Okay, give me the dates for your folk/rock band, Peter and the Wolves.
PL: It was only for a year — 1965 through 1966.
But that's when I met Johnny Barbata and Lee
Michaels, while I was playing with
Peter and the Wolves at Gazzarri's — definitely the uncoolest club
on the (Sunset) Strip. It was mostly people there
with sharkskin suits and th
eir hair slicked back, and
you knew if you had long hair you had to be cool or
they'd kick your ass. It was a different kind of
place. A lot of the places Peter and the Wolves
played were owned by these sub-mobsters, local
enforcers. It was hard to get your money. But they
were making the effort to get some of the people in
there who were hanging out at the Whisky
and the Trip to see Love and the Byrds.
Was there an end to Peter and the Wolves, or
did it just kind of peter out? (laughter).
Well, there was this band called the Joel Scott Hill
Trio — He later wound up in the Burrito Brothers
and Canned Heat — and Joel was as
talented as Bob (Mosley) except he was a guitar player and a
really good looking guy. And a really talented sing
er with that blues voice. He could play like BB
King, but he looked like John Lennon. At this po
int the Joel Scott Hill trio was Joel, Bob Mosley and
Johnny Barbata. Up in Sacramento the Trio ran into
Lee Michaels, and Joel wanted to add Lee to the
group, so Bob quit. He didn't want to play in
a four-piece band, because they weren't making that
much money anyway. So Bob started playing with
these guys, the Frantics (with Jerry Miller and Don
Stevenson) and finally wound up in Hollister (south
of San Jose) playing acoustic guitar in this bar.
Then Johnny Barbata and Lee Michaels came up to
Gazzarri's to see Peter and the Wolves. They were
looking for a folk/rock thing to add a different vibe to the Trio, and they'd heard we were pretty good.
Did you finally play with Joel Scott Hill?
I sat in for Joel one Sunday down at the Action with
Johnny and Lee. And right after that Johnny got
the job with the Turtles, and my dru
mmer went with Joel Scott Hill. That's sort of what broke up Peter
and the Wolves. I hadn't been really satisfied with
it anyway, because I was starting to write songs, but
nobody else was. I wrote "Fall On You" during th
at time, and we played it
live with Peter and the
Wolves. But I wanted to be a part of a band — no
t with me as the leader — just to be a part of
something really bitchin.' That's
what was cool about the sixties. It wasn't just one guy running the
boat. Finally the drummer called me
and told me that Joel wanted to play with me to get this
folk/rock thing going. So they came over, but we didn't have a bass player. And Joel said, "I know this
really great bass player, Bob Mosley, but he's nuts."
And I said, "Well, shit man, nuts is happening."
Do you remember the first time you met Mosley?
I went to pick him up — he was flying in from Ho
llister — and I was looking around the bar in the LA
airport, lookin' for some hippie guy, and all I could
find was this guy in Bermuda shorts and sneakers
with white socks, with a goatee and sunglasses and
his hair combed back, looking like one of these
tough guy musicians. And it was Bob. I had be
ll-bottoms and my hair was really long, and I was
thinking, "We ain't gonna get along"
(laughs). He got in my car, and he didn't say a goddamned thing.
When we got halfway up to my hous
e, he turns to me and says, "I can play like a motherfucker and
sing anything up to high C. What the hell can you do?"
How was Mosley live? As good as advertised?
I'll never forget the first time I
heard him. He sang "Big Boss Man." And his bass playing was just
whatever he felt at the time. It wa
s just this fuckin' noise. It wasn't Paul McCartney, y'know. And he
was looking right at me, singing like
I was "big boss man" and "you ain't so tough." I didn't know what to
think of Bob. I just knew I had to find him a plac
e to stay, because I didn't
want him staying with me
(laughs). You had the feeling that if you left your wi
fe alone for five minutes he
'd be fucking her in the
bathroom (laughs). He was really unchai
ned. That thing that he does, that
comes from a certain
place inside him. He had a lot of anger. He may be the toughest guy I ever me
t. I had a fight with him
one time. We were in a hotel room, and somebody was
calling us to tell us it was time for the gig. And
we were both wandering around wi
th towels around us, after taking
a shower. And Bob told the guy,
"Call back in twenty minutes." And I told him, "Hey, man, we gotta go." So the phone rang again, and
we both fought over the phone for about five minutes.
It was really shitty. Bu
t he was so strong. Once
he got a handle on you, it's over.
Were you guys doing psychedelics at this point?
Right about then we went up to some guy's place in the Hollywood hills to drop acid and see if we
could write some cool music. First time for me, but I don't know about Bob.
They had their own little
scene, and they were superimposing me on their scene,
and I felt like just an obse
rver. Joel came up to
me and told me, "Don't take any of that stuff, just
let Bob and Ken (Dunbar,
the drummer) take it, and
we'll just check 'em out." Joel was li
ke a real manipulator. He had this
way of acting like a lion tamer,
and Bob was the lion. Bob started getting high an
d getting confused, and Jo
el would lead him on.
That's how Bob paid the price for not driving the bo
at. See, Bob wasn't aware of the Byrds or any of
this folk/rock stuff. He was just
this guy. So, just when Bob wa
s the most fucked-up and the dawn
started breaking, I started to play this Rickenbacker
twelve-string. And I saw Bob latch onto it like a
log to a guy that's drowning. And he just listened to
this stuff he'd never hea
rd before. The jangling got
in there, and he started to sing, and it was like the
Byrds, but with the blues on it. And that was "Bitter
Wind." And that's when we realized we had this different thing. It was happening.
Who was next in the Grape's cast of characters to appear?
Ken Dunbar quit to play with Noony Ricket (in a later version of Love
with Arthur Lee) so our other
drummer came back, and he had met this guy Ma
tthew Katz somehow, so he brought Matthew
around. That's when Joel bailed, because Matthew
wanted to sign us and Joel didn't like Matthew.
Uh-oh. Maybe Joel was right.
Well, he was and he wasn't, because we got on the
map and Joel didn't. And we never formed that
bloc like the Airplane did. They
just closed ranks on the guy and
he was out. They got Bill Graham
and Matthew didn't fuck with the Airplane after th
at, or Bill Graham would
have fuckin' killed him,
or made it impossible for him to walk around
. That's the way Bill Graham did business.
You mentioned that Matthew had a good side as well.
Yeah, well, the ambience he created,
that you were already a star, beca
use he had a couple of Jaguars,
himself. I never knew how he made
his money. But even then, he didn
't really treat you like you were
worth much. He tried to devalue you at the same
time — buying cheap and se
lling high. And by the
60's that kind of usury was old hat. Nobody want
ed to be managed by a guy like that any more.
We're the band, we're making the music, so we're go
nna decide. Matthew's main function at first was
just as a way to get from LA to San Francisco. LA wa
sn't the place to put a band together at the time. It
was too locked in. The Mamas and the Papas ran LA. But San Francisco was still wide open.
So it was Matthew who got up to San Francisco?
He asked us, "Do you want to go to San Francisco an
d put a band together?" So
Bob and I went with the
drummer, and Joel didn't go. When we got there we met Skippy (Spence) beca
use he'd just left the
Airplane to go with Matthew.
And we played together and started halfway looking around for
another guitar player, for some reason. I hadn't b
een playing lead. It's some
thing you've got to do
incessantly to be really good. An
d I hadn't been doing it because I
got locked into the Byrds thing,
which is sort of a lead thing, but it wasn't the kind
of thing those guys were us
ed to. Bob was used to a
lead guitar like B. B. King — or Je
rry Miller. I don't know if I was rea
lly into the extra guitar thing. At
that point it wasn't like I was trying to mould the
group musically, it was just knowing in my own guts
that there was something big happening, and I wanted to
be a part of it. It was the new values of the
60's to me: the whole being greate
r than the sum of the parts, and
a willingness to go beyond the ego
to get something great out of it. You could just hear
it in a song like "Lay
Down Your Weary Tune" by
the Byrds. I mean, maybe they came from differen
t backgrounds — and Moby Grape came from even
more diverse backgrounds — but to
put that aside and play music together, to some degree, they had
the solution.
It didn't take you long to get the final lineup together.
For some reason Skippy and Bob didn't like th
e drummer, Bob Newkirk from Peter and the Wolves,
and Bob said he knew this guy
named Don Stevenson (from the Frantics) who could play drums. And
that's how Jerry (Miller) got in th
ere. Jerry came with Don when Do
n came to audition. Jerry jammed
with us, and about half an hour into it we looked
at each other and just went
, "Fuck!" And we really
liked each other. And two months
after that we wound
up getting the biggest contract Columbia'd
ever given anybody. Not through Matthew Kates, ei
ther. We had already fired him. We couldn't
play the Fillmore because he was our manager, and nobo
dy liked the guy. He'd used all his credit up.
He was an asshole, and it was anachronistic for hi
m to be that way — He
was real greedy — in the
context of the 60's with people trying
to be peaceful and love each other.
How did you give him the sack?
Matthew had arranged for us to play at this plac
e in Sausalito called the Ark, which sort of became
our club. Up until that point he'd
been really cool, but that thing with the Airplane (his firing) was
dogging him like an albatross. So I made the deal
for us to play the Fillmore, because they wouldn't
deal with Matthew.
All the local counter-culture icons came
to see you at the Ark, didn't they?
The word got out really fast — because Skippy was
in the band — that we were really good, and
Jerry Garcia and Big Brother came around to see us
. And that's the place I first met Neil Young and
Steven Stills. They'd met Skip wh
en he was in the Airplane, and the
guy at the Ark pointed out me as
being in the band. So I spent the afternoon trading
songs with those guys. We
had these two songs we
were doing. One of them was
(Stevenson/Miller number) "Murder In My Heart For The Judge" and
the other was one of my songs called "Stop" (sings) "C
an't stop/Can't you hear
the music ringing in your
So later when they came back to play the Aval
on, Steven told me, "Hey
man, we just cut this
song, and when we were done we realized it was two of your songs stuck together
." And ("For What It's
Worth") was a combination of those two: "Stop" an
d "Murder In My Heart Fo
r The Judge." And "Mr.
Soul" was "Fall On You" put in E instead of A with a little bit of "Satisfaction" a
dded to the lick. And it
was really cool. The Springfield were really good at juggling things around.
I just told 'em, "Who
cares." It wasn't a case, like now, of "I'm gonna su
e your ass." Some of my
happiest memories of those
days were of sitting around Mo
sley's apartment in Mill Valley with Steven and Neil and Richie
(Furay), smokin' dope and playing each other our songs.
Did you foresee the problems the Springfield were to have
with Neil coming and going so many times.
Well, yeah, but I did that too with Moby Grape. Ne
il and I were a lot alike.
He and I hung around
together a lot. I really loved him.
And I saw this similarity in the wa
y we were treated in our bands.
Neil was like this rich kid, and the other guys were
treating him like he didn't know shit because they
were "street-wise." And they held it over
him. The same way Moby Grape treated me.
How does Moby Grape as a collection of pe
ople seem to you after all these years?
It was a coalition of guys who were multi-talented, except for me
. I mean, I hadn't written any songs
yet. I could play guitar okay. I
had this style of playing that fit be
cause of the 60's folk thing. And
Skippy was just like me, a talented kinda odd guy to
make it sound like more
than a club band. But
those other three guys were really super musician
s — hardened club musician
s. And that's kinda
what I'd done with Peter and the Wolves. You've gotta go out th
ere and get your head banged around
to be able to write "Fall On You." And then so
mehow "Sitting By The Window" shows up and then
"He" and you document your life. But you don't write in a vacuum.
How was Skippy in those early days? No problems?
He was fine, man. No problems. He was just sort of this punk-ish, impish guy. But he was always real
Why did you do the deal that haunts you to this day, signing away th
e Moby Grape name to
Matthew Katz?
(Sighs) We'd signed this management deal with hi
m already. Bob and Skippy had come up with the
name, the punch-line to the joke, "What's eight to
ns, purple and floats in the sea?" Matthew was
renting an apartment for Skippy and Bob on Sacram
ento Street for a lot of money, back then, two
hundred and fifty dollars a month, which enabled Bo
b to stay there and do his thing. And he was
taking care of Jerry and Don too.
I didn't need it, because I had this insurance policy that gave me ten
thousand dollars when I turned twenty one, so
I could get out of Hollywood and not be Loretta
Young's son any more, but Peter Lewi
s. And it was my money that kept the band from having to get
other jobs to survive. But Matthew wasn't sensitiv
e enough to see what was
happening. You can't just
barge in there or you're the one th
ey're gonna get rid of. He was t
oo much of a prima donna to be a
manager. He didn't control himself well. At one
point, when Matthew was ou
t of the picture and we
were playing the Matrix, Paul
Rothchild — before he signed the Doors — came backstage and told
us, "We want you on Elektra Records.
I'll give you anything you want." They offered us fifty percent of
the stock in the company. And that's the only labe
l where we could have made
it. But that started
this feeding frenzy, all these labels
after us. So they started calling
Matthew instead of us, and that's